A joint Australian and British study has found that lottery winners tend to switch their political allegiances to rightwing parties after their windfalls. They also appear to become less egalitarian and less concerned by the challenges faced by people on low incomes.
The research analysed more than 4,000 British citizens who won up to £200,000 ($365,000) on the country’s national lottery. Most of these wins were of relatively small amounts, with only 541 people winning over £500 ($910). In all, there were around 11,000 observations of winners, due to the fact that many people won money more than once.
Even among those who won small amounts of money, researchers found a clear trend of lottery winners switching support from the Labour party, traditionally a leftwing party, to the rightwing Conservatives.
Existing Conservative voters who won lottery money said their support for the party had strengthened after the lucky break, while winners from all political persuasions were more likely to say that ordinary people already had a fair share of wealth, compared with before their win.
Nearly 18% of winners immediately switched support to the Conservatives after their wins over the course of the study, which was based on household panel surveys taken each year from 1996 to 2009.
Overall, 45% of people who won more than £500 on the lottery said they supported rightwing parties, compared with 38% of non-winners throughout the course of the studies.
The lurch to the right was more pronounced for those who won large amounts of money and was more common among men than women.
Researchers – from the University of Melbourne and the University of Warwick – said that studying lottery winners “isn’t perfect” due to unknown biases such as the personality traits of people who play the lottery in the first place.
But they point out that more than 50% of the British population plays the lottery on a regular basis.
I have not read the original study so can’t comment on how solid it is. However, it would not surprise me if it were to be true. After all, this is something that happens all the time. From the moment we were born, all of us have been entered into multiple ‘lotteries.’ We saw last week that people descended from Norman conquerors still enjoy significant advantages over the general population almost a millennium after the Battle of Hastings. It speaks to our narcissism as humans that so many people attribute their good fortune not to such pieces of good luck but to their own supposed virtue.